PARIS (Reuters) -France will not enforce a new lockdown for the time being to curb the spread of the coronavirus but it could soon impose an earlier curfew in eastern areas of the country, the worst-hit by infections, the health minister said on Tuesday.
"We're ruling out the idea of a lockdown for now, whether it be nationally or locally", Olivier Veran said on France 2 public TV channel.
"But we will propose an extension of the curfew that could start at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. in all the areas where it will be deemed necessary", Veran said.
France, which has the highest cases count in Western Europe and the fifth in the world at 2.57 million, has already been through two lockdowns, the first from March 17 to May 11 and the second from Oct 30 to Dec 15.
Since that date, the lockdown has been replaced by an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. national curfew, and, contrary to what was initially hoped for, cultural venues have remained closed because the daily new infections have not gone below the 5,000 target set by the government.
French health authorities earlier reported 11,395 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, jumping above the 10,000 threshold for the first time in four days.
The seven-day moving average of new infections, which averages out weekly data reporting irregularities, stands at 11,871.
France, which began its gradual vaccination campaign on Sunday, also saw the number of persons hospitalised for the disease rise for the fourth day running, a sequence unseen since Nov. 13.
The COVID-19 death toll was up by 969, at 64,078 - the seventh-highest in the world - versus a seven day moving average of 339.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)
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